Producers of the NBC reality weight-loss show "The Biggest Loser" didn't have much trouble deciding which East Valley city they'd hold Saturday's casting call in - for the second year in a row.
"We look at statistics at where the highest obesity reports tend to come from," says casting producer Allison Kaz. "Mesa, for the last couple of years, has been on (at least) one of the 'fattest cities' lists. Last year was the first time we went to Mesa, and we had a really good turnout. ... It's something that we didn't even second-guess for this season. We knew we were coming back."
Mesa ranked No. 4 on Men's Fitness magazine's list of the Top 10 Fattest Cities for 2007.
Mesa's Bette-Sue Burklund, 53 - who competed on the current season of "The Biggest Loser: Couples" with daughter Ali Vincent, 33, before getting voted off early - says it's a no-brainer the show would return to Mesa.
"They're less into image in Mesa," says Burklund. "It's known as a family kind of town. And for whatever reason, once you start having kids and families, it's less about you and they just let things go to pot.
"There's probably more ice cream parlors in Mesa than anywhere else, because that's what people go out for."
Burklund says it has been a struggle to keep shedding the weight after she returned to the East Valley.
"I had a house full of processed food that I had to empty out," says Burklund, who lost 37 pounds on the show. "I was really lost when I came home." But working out with her daughter, who lost 36 pounds on the show, at a health club certainly helps both women through the rough times.
"It makes a difference to see her across the gym," says Vincent, who says she has also started hiking South Mountain with a friend. "It reminds me that we're in this together, and it encourages me to keep going when I don't want to go."